High frequency measurements of dissolved inorganic and organic nutrients using instrumented moorings in the southern and central North Sea

Suhaimi Suratman, Keith Weston, Naomi Greenwood, David B. Sivyer, David J. Pearce, Tim Jickells

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11 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study was to investigate the cycling of dissolved inorganic and organic nutrients using moored instrumented buoys (SmartBuoys) during the spring bloom in the North Sea. The instrumentation on the buoys enabled high frequency measurements of water-column integrated irradiance and in situ chlorophyll to be made, and also preserved water sample collection which were used for dissolved inorganic and organic nutrient analyses. The SmartBuoys were located in the year-round well-mixed plume zone associated with the River Thames and in the summer stratified central North Sea. These site locations allowed comparison of nutrient concentrations and cycling, and spring bloom development at two contrasting sites. The spring bloom was expected to be initiated at both stations due to increasing insolation and decreasing suspended load leading to higher water-column integrated irradiance. Due to differences in suspended load between the sites, the spring bloom started ~2 months earlier in the central North Sea. The spring bloom in the Thames plume also resulted in higher maximum phytoplankton biomass due to the higher pre-bloom nutrient concentrations associated with riverine input. The use of SmartBuoys is also shown to allow the cycling of dissolved organic nutrients to be examined over the critical, and often undersampled, spring bloom period. Dissolved Organic Nitrogen (DON) clearly increased during the spring bloom in the central North Sea compared to winter concentrations. DON also increased in the Thames plume although showing greater winter variability related to higher riverine and sedimentary dissolved organic matter input at this shallow (~18 m) coastal site. DON increase during the spring bloom was therefore related to primary production at both sites probably due to active release by phytoplankton. At both stations DON decreased to pre-bloom concentrations as the bloom declined suggesting the released DON was bioavailable and removed due to heterotrophic uptake and production. The preserved nutrient samples from the central North Sea site were also suitable for Dissolved Organic Phosphorus (DOP) analysis due to their low suspended load with similar trends and cycling to DON, albeit at lower concentrations. This suggested similar processes controlling both DON and DOP. The variable timing of short term events such as the spring bloom makes sampling away from coastal regions difficult without the use of autonomous technology. This study demonstrates for the first time the applicability of using preserved samples from automated buoys for the measurement of dissolved organic nutrients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-639
Number of pages9
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2010


  • spring bloom
  • mooring
  • nutrient
  • dissolved organic nitrogen
  • dissolved organic phosphorus
  • North sea

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